Obesity and diet-related diseases are on the rise, so it’s more important than ever that children are educated about where their food comes from and the benefits of eating well. Jamie Oliver is championing this in Britain with the launch of Food Revolution Day, a campaign fighting to put compulsory, practical food education on the school curriculum.

Another way of engaging children in food issues is through farm-to-school (FTS) programmes. Using Food Hubs to Create Sustainable Farm-to-School Programs is a new guide from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM), which is designed to increase the role of food hubs in the programmes.

The VAAFM facilitates and supports the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while also protecting the environment and the health of its people. As part of this commitment, it encourages the expansion of regional food hubs, defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as “a business or organisation that is actively coordinating the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified locally or regionally grown food products from primarily small to mid-sized producers.”

The Using Food Hubs to Create Sustainable Farm to School Programs guide was born out of a project that aimed to:

  • strengthen the regional support structure for farmers and food service staff to provide locally-grown food in schools;
  • create a community of practice among regional food hubs focused on school food procurement; and
  • demonstrate models of how regional food hubs support FTS programmes and increase purchasing of local foods by schools.

Following 18 months of collaboration with schools, VAAFM found that those engaging with a local food hub increased purchases of local food by 58%. Following the success of this scheme, the agency used the data to put together its guide for schools and food hubs across the nation: by demonstrating the many successes of hub and school partnerships in Vermont it hopes to encourage other states to follow suit.

The guide offers four case studies designed to help both food hubs and FTS programmes strengthen partnerships, increase local food procurement and engage students and community members in FTS activities. It also contains information on increasing local food sales, developing local food products and devising new recipes for schools.

Access Using Food Hubs to Create Sustainable Farm to School Programs here.

Photograph: Suzie’s Farm

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